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Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre Kindle Edition
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That having been said, this is an excellent examination of the tense, uncomfortable, even "bad" relationship the horror genre has with Christian publishing, despite the early impact of Christianity on the development of the horror genre. It should also be noted that while Duran correctly cites these early influences, he by no means makes claims that the horror genre today is completely Christian, or completely influenced by a Christian worldview.
He does, however, examine the potential for the horror tale in serving up stories of morality and the battle between good and evil, making them very valid expressions of faith, indeed. The framework he cites is well known, also cited in DANSE MACABRE and THE PHILOSOPHY OF HORROR, though both those works address this framework in a more oblique fashion: that the classic horror tale features the introduction of something monstrous (or Dionysian, in King's terms) on a Apollonian world, and the bulk of the story is made up of attempts to restore this Apollonian order as an affirmation of goodness over evil, order over chaos. Of course, in this work, that intrusion and struggle is couched in terms of Christianity, but that's to be expected.
Duran's done his homework, touching on artistic works of the grotesque that were right at home with early believers, as well as mentioning the work of Charles Williams, Arthur Machen, George MacDonald and even Flannery O'Conner. He traces the development of "safe" Christian entertainment, show how it came about, and why early Gothic works came to be viewed unfavorably by a Christianity that became more and more adept at fashioning a "marketable" image. He also nicely addresses the ambiguity of "ghosts" in scripture (how it's not clear cut that they're ALL just demons), and also addresses the very real potential that ignoring evil/dark/disturbing things is perhaps far more dangerous for the Christian, because it involves buying into a sanitized view of the world.
My only quibbles with the work (which are small, really, and may just be me making too much of nothing) are:
1. Duran seems to lump dystopian fiction in with post-apocalyptic fiction, making the statement that both works are all about how humans are broken, and eventually their worlds will fail and break down as well. This may be nit-picky of me, but to me, a closer reading of dystopian fiction is they are stories that warn of a particular trait extant in the world today: obsession with perfection, racism, over-powerful governments, prejudice against people who are different, homophobia, censorship...even religious intolerance...and they imagine a world in which any of these devices are now all-consuming in a repressive, controlling police state.
Typically, those stories - Fahrenheit 451, A Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Anthem, The Giver (which is a little post-apocalyptic, admittedly) Harrison Bergeron and others, classic Twilight Zone episodes of "The Obsolete Man," "Number 12 Looks Just Like You", "In the Eye of the Beholder" - are certainly horrific, but they're more about easily a police state can form, how quickly freedoms can be taken away and why they're taken away, and the nature of individuality, and how human nature can only be caged for so long before it eventually breaks free. Lumping those works in with The Walking Dead (which is still a show rich with substance, at times), does a disservice to the importance of the dystopian genre.
2. There are mild implications throughout the work that while the Christian writer has something of substance to say (which is why they should "reclaim the horror genre"), the non-Christian writer or materialist or atheist does not. This, in my opinion, is somewhat of a generalization. I wouldn't consider myself supremely well-read in the horror genre, but decently so, enough to say that just because a person isn't Christian or not spiritual doesn't mean they don't have anything to say about good and evil and morality. For the most part - with the exception of those who traffic in exploitation stories filled with gore and little else - the best horror writers most certainly have something to say: about what it means to be a human, about dealing with loss, love, betrayal, about surviving, about living and dying...the whole gamut. And seeing as humans were created by God, (depending on your world view), all those things can been as coming from God, seeing as how he create the world we live in. Even claiming that stories which don't feature "God" as a source of hope fall short in comparison to stories that do ignores that very often those stories paint a much more realistic portrait of life and all its troubles.
But again, this work seems to be intended for a Christian audience, not for general readers or those who read primarily in the secular horror market. It does well what it sets out to do: show how Christianity and the horror genre are very much compatible, depending on the stories told. Hopefully it will become wide-read within the Christian market, and will make an impact on those who read, write, and PUBLISH in the that market.
There are a lot of good insights and examples in this book, but one of the most helpful nuggets I've come across so far is the fact that horror doesn't equate with "gore".
Don't know where I got the idea that it did, but it doesn't. The horror genre involves much more.
Pick up this book, it's a great read, especially for Christian authors who might feel a bit squeamish about putting macabre elements to their stories.
At the same time, Duran stresses that Christians should be discerning. In fact, he writes, Christians should be discerning even about the effects of consuming "clean" literature, which can warp a person's worldview as much as horror can.
My only complaint with the book is that it contains a small number of typos (which puts it in good company) and could have benefitted from more subheadings and other structure (ditto). While I don't expect a "broadside" to be professionally edited, I do expect it of an academic publication, and "Christian Horror" has the latter style in many places. But those are very minor distractions.
Overall, this book displays Duran's vast knowledge of the horror genre, as well as his depth of thought about not merely the theological issues, but their spiritual, practical, and pastoral application. This small volume should serve the reader to not only be persuaded by its argument, but also as a reference whenever the topic of horror might arise in discussion. It is a book worth not only reading, but keeping.
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